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River Vale man gets four years in prison for sucker-punch ‘knockout’ attacks at Massachusetts college

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

UPDATE: A River Vale teen who received notoriety for a “Make-a-Wish” meeting he had with hockey great Wayne Gretzky pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison this week for breaking the jaw of one classmate and shattering the face of another during a vicious super-punch game of “knockout” at the Massachusetts college he’d been attending.

Dillon DeStefano, 20, was sentenced after his 88-year-old grandmother, Jennie DeStefano of Westwood, asked the judge to reconsider.

“He doesn’t deserve this,” she told the Salem (MA) Superior Court judge. “He was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and now he’s got to pay with the rest of his life?”

DeStefano, who previously played hockey for St. Joseph’s Regional High School in Montvale, committed “unprovoked, random attacks on unsuspecting victims,” Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett countered.

Dillon DeStefano

DeStefano apologized to the victims while pleading guilty to assault and witness intimidation.

He also said the Endicott College assaults weren’t part of a “knockout” game but, instead, were his response — fueled by alcohol and performing-enhancing-drugs — to “slights’ and “insults.”

Stefano, who left the school, was a sophomore when he attacked the other students on Feb. 2 while drinking and walking around campus with friends.

One victim suffered a broken jaw and had to have his mouth wired shut for weeks, authorities said. A second got a broken eye socket and sinus cavity, requiring reconstructive surgery, they said. A third escaped with a swollen lip.

No charges were filed in the third incident, authorities later said.

Destefano also admitted threatening a witness not to rat him out.

DeStefano “didn’t even know (the students),” Endicott College President Richard Wylie told CBS Boston. “It was just a random act of violence.”

Other students at the school turned in DeStefano after hearing him bragging about the attacks, Wylie said. Two other students who were with him later surrendered, authorities said.

Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease 10 years ago, DeStefano got to play hockey with Gretzky at The Great One’s childhood home in Brantford, Ontario, in 2006.

The lifelong New Jersey Devils fan, who was born 10 weeks premature and has played hockey since kindergarten, was flown with his parents and brother to Canada by the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

There he got to skate, pass and shoot with his idol before Gretzky took the family to his annual charity golf tournament in Brantford.

DeStefano’s parents later talked to reporters about their son’s battles with his illness — a chronic, inflammatory disease of the intestines — and how it made him a fighter since the day he was born.

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